Honda's 10th generation Civic is here, ready to go on sale and hopefully be as successful as it's predecessors that have sold 23 000 000 units to date. After a sampling of the car through some epic Cape roads, it looks to me like the thing that made the Civic range so popular is still there with added extras of course. The all-new Honda Civic will be more than enough to make existing owners happy to upgrade and the amount of tech and options packed into the car may just be enough for the brand to sway new buyers.
At the 1st presentation on the car I was happily sitting there listening to all the improvements and upgrades seen on and in the new Honda Civic and then I noticed that it was only offered with a CVT gearbox - even the Sport model. I must be honest, at that point I almost switched off, such is my dislike for this kind of mechanical treachery. As with most things in life, it's best not to knock something until you've tried it, so I made a point to focus on the rest of the presentation and try not think about that slipping clutch feeling that would be coming up later...
There are 4 models in the new Civic lineup, two normally aspirated 1800cc models and two 1500cc turbocharged models, each with differing spec and trim packages. The 1800 makes 104kW and 174Nm while the smaller capacity turbo version makes a much healthier 127kW and 220Nm. At the launch there was a fleet of the turbocharged models for us to drive, but knowing Honda the 1800cc versions are every bit as good, simply slightly down on performance. The first drive was in the Executive model and it's exactly that, executive. The comprehensive features list leaves nothing to be desired, and I mean that quite literally, I can't pinpoint anything the car needs over and above what it already has. In fact, the Civic's new size as well as the more upmarket feel the model now has sees it also being touted as a replacement to the Accord range that's been stopped here in SA, something I think the car should do quite well while selling in two traditionally different segments.
As said, we only sampled the 1.5 VTEC turbo variant, but don't let the small capacity fool you, that power output is more than enough to get the Civic moving quite rapidly, but is also enough to impress the owners of the current generation Accord who are used to the bigger, more powerful normally aspirated 2.4-litre motor. The combination of boost and Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ results in a brilliant balance of power and efficiency. Kicking around on a combined cycle Honda claims the small motor will use just 5.9-litres / 100km and when you wanna hoof it, 100km/h comes up in 8.2-seconds and from there runs, quite quickly, to the top speed of 200km/h. The way the power is delivered things feel like a large capacity normally aspirated motor, or supercharged, because there's no power kick or turbo lag at all.
That brings me to that dreaded CVT gearbox. I was ready for that major clutch-slip feeling and then the long wait for the speedo to match what the current revs before things settle down. I was also ready for the revs to start going haywire when the car hit an uphill and needed more power to get up the hill. I was ready for a decent helping of disappointment. What I wasn't ready for was a gearbox so good that I would live with it daily and be perfectly content. On full throttle, the revs climb a little as you'd expect but the whole process is super smooth, before you know it you're north of the speed limit and have to quickly back off. On the Sport model there are flappy paddles, which I only noticed after a a bit of a drive. Why would there be paddles on a gearbox that effectively only has a single gear? Fancy electronics. Yeah other cars have similar things where you can "shift" up or down to predetermined points in the rev range that are meant to feel like different gears. Well on the rest I've driven it was meant to feel this way, on the new Honda Civic it DOES feel this way. It's brilliant, and for me sets a new standard of what a CVT gearbox should feel like. Honda have proven that a sport model and a CVT gearbox can work seamlessly together. Colour me impressed.
Inside the all-new Civic is a cracking interior that "embodies Honda’s Daring ACE Design concept" combining high-quality materials with an "ergonomically intuitive centre console and a sporty yet comfortable driving position". Basically what that means is you can see this Honda was made to impress. My co-pilot wasn't sold on the speedo display, but I quite liked it, especially after changing it to show the digital boost gauge - gadgets make me happy. The seat is quite low and can't be raised, something short people usually need, but even my short frame was comfortable in no time. The controls are all within reach and those that aren't can be easily and safely accessed from the steering controls. The seats are very good, the heated leather seats (standard on all but the entry-level model) provide perfect support and even on a long road that doesn't change. There's now more more space in the rear for taller chaps thanks to the longer body and creative angles for the seats.
We find a bunch of tech in the new Civic with a great infotainment / audio system headed up by a high-res 7-inch LCD screen. The IPS display can be easily seen from both front seats, the system allows connection with numerous smartphone functions, including maps for ease of navi operation making this the most convenient and connected Civic ever. There are several other Civic firsts - Walk Away Auto Lock and a bunch of cool features found on the Exec version, like ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) with LSF (Low Speed Following), CMBS (Collision Mitigation Braking System), LDW (Lane Departure Warning), LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System), RDM (Road Departure Mitigation), FCW (Forward Collision Warning) and a really cool feature that I couldn't stop fiddling with - lane watch with side-sensing cameras - this shows your blind spot on the infotainment screen. It's also a great feature to keep an eye on your dog if he's chilling in the back with his head out of the window lapping up the air.
Honda have added AHA (Agile Handling Assist), integrated with the Civic’s EPS and vehicle control systems to facilitate driving enjoyment, as well as overall control and stability. The AHA system can recognise a loss of control when cornering and will help prevent it by continuously modulating brake and throttle inputs in small, imperceptible increments to assist overall driver control. We tried to feel this on some windy mountain roads and while we couldn't feel it working, it must have been because we stayed wheels up.
The styling of the new Civic is something completely different. It looks like coupe with a mix of a hatch and a sedan (which is basically what a coupe is of course) as opposed to just a sedan, and I quite like it. The front now looks like a relation to the Type-R that's already been released and the rear is angular, but clean. I haven't made up my mind as to if I prefer it with or without that spoiler seen on the Sport model. It's an aggressive looking car, more than in the past thanks to a longer wheel base (30mm) and a longer body (109mm) and it's also lower (20mm). A new wheel design and advanced full LED headlights are in play on the 1.5-litre models, while the 1800 models have projector-type halogen units, but all of them feature LED daytime running lights.
There's a full new chassis setup on the new Civic, a lightweight, low-inertia / high-rigidity platform thanks to the use of ACE technology and high-tensile materials. This has resulted in improvements in the dynamic performance, handling and safety. It's also chopped 22kg off the mass. A new design in the front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension systems make for an increase in body and chassis rigidity. There's now a dual-pinion electric power steering that "creates a linear and smooth feel with an integral sense of security" - which basically means the car still feels connected to the road and provides great feedback.
The new Honda Civic is a very good car that's going make current owners looking to upgrade quite happy, as well as being able to impress those who have traditionally preferred other brands in the same segment. The pricing seems on point, but for those looking to replace their current Accord, the pricing is even better when comparing price vs spec. It just makes sense for them to have a new Civic in the driveway. You can bet anything you want that the new Civic will carry the name high and it's set to be the manufacturer's bread and butter model yet again.
Oh yeah, I usually snap my own pics on launches, but this time they were horrible. Our route took us through plenty flying bug conventions and by the time I whipped out the camera for some cool static and rolling shots the cars were littered with bug guts. I'll make sure to get great pics if I get one on a proper test. Here's a few that are OK enough to share...
1.8 Comfort CVT – R330 000
1.8 Elegance CVT – R370 000
1.5T Sport CVT – R430 000
1.5T Executive CVT – R460 000
The recommended retail pricing includes a five-year/200 000 km warranty, a five-year/90 000 km service plan, as well as three years of AA Roadside Assistance. All models are equipped with dual front, side and curtain airbags, complemented with a reverse camera and rear parking sensors on all but the base model.